Virtual Staging Vs. Real Staging: Which Is Better?

Virtual staging of a bedroom in a modern style of interior design

Real estate agents are often faced with the dilemma of whether to stage a home or not. While there are some that would say it is pointless, expensive, or even unnecessary, there are many realtors who can attest to the benefits of staging a home.

Staging a home for sale is a critical step in the sales process. Without properly staging your home, you can potentially miss out on thousands and thousands of dollars. In fact, according to research from the Real Estate Staging Association, staged homes sell 73% faster and for more money than unstaged homes. But how? How do furniture and décor make such a difference in the sales process? What are the benefits? Let’s take a look!

Virtual Staging Vs. Real Staging: What's The Difference?

The first thing we need to cover is the difference between virtual staging and real, also called traditional, staging. 

Real estate staging is a service in which the seller, or the seller's agent, hires a company to stage the home. The company brings in furniture and décor that is meant to highlight the best features of the space. Often, this will include a bed for an empty bedroom, some art for bare walls or even plants to add some color.

Virtual staging takes this one step further: It digitally enhances a photo rather than physically changing a room. This can be done in two ways: either by actually removing items from a photo — think of it as "virtual de-cluttering" — or by adding items to the space that were never there in the first place.

The appeal of virtual staging can be summed up in two words: instant results. Whereas real staging takes time and money, virtual staging can be done immediately and often offers comparable results at a fraction of the cost.

Real Staging Pros and Cons

Traditional Staging techniques focus on improving a property's appeal by transforming it into a welcoming, attractive product that anyone might want. In practice, this has traditionally meant "neutralizing" the home by de-personalizing it, removing as many traces of its owner as possible to allow potential buyers to envision themselves living there.

Some of the pros of real staging are:

  1. It gets your home noticed. The multiple listing service (MLS) is crowded with listings vying for buyers' attention, so you need your listing photos to stand out from the rest.
  2. Home staging allows you to show off your property at its very best. You will be able to showcase the full potential of each room in a way that most people wouldn’t normally be able to see when they view your property.
  3. With home staging, you will be able to sell your property more quickly and for more money. A professionally staged room creates an emotional attachment to the space, encouraging buyers to pay top dollar for the property.
  4. A staged home makes your property stand out from the competition. Statistics show that buyers need only 6 seconds to form an opinion about a property, so it pays to make a great first impression.

While traditional staging has received a lot of attention over the years as an effective way to sell your home quickly and at top dollar, there are also some drawbacks. Here are the most common cons:

  1. Traditional home staging is not cheap. You'll need to pay for cleaning services, painting, furniture rental, and other expenses. Some homeowners may find those costs hard to justify when they're already spending so much on agent commissions, closing costs, and moving expenses. If you choose to use a professional stager, you'll need to pay for that service as well.
  2. You may need to make home repairs first. In order to stage your home effectively, you may need to do some work around the house first. This can include painting, repairing flooring, or even updating appliances or fixtures. If you have a limited budget, it may make more sense to spend it on making repairs rather than staging – especially if there is something that might be a turn-off for buyers, such as an outdated kitchen or bath.
  3. It takes a lot of time and effort. You will need to clean your home thoroughly and make sure everything is in working order before professional photos can be taken. You will also have to schedule movers to take out any outdated and bulky furniture pieces. You’ll also need movers to bring in the new staging furniture. And these are just the final steps. Before that, you will need to have multiple consultations with the staging company to decide on how you want to stage the home.
  4. There are no guarantees that spending money on traditional home staging will pay off when you sell. While staging can make your house look even better than when you were living in it, because of the high costs associated with staging, the money you spend on it might not recoup its costs when you sell.

Virtual Staging Pros and Cons

Virtual staging, or using digital images to furnish a property in an online listing, can be an excellent way for sellers to show off their homes, especially if the property is vacant. It’s a great way to present the property's potential in its best light, with maximum exposure to all buyers.

Here are some pros of virtual staging:

  1. Virtual staging is extremely affordable. If you're selling a high-end home with a large budget to sell, you might opt for real staging instead, but most sellers will find that virtual staging costs only a fraction of what they'll pay to hire an interior designer.
  2. Virtual staging appeals to buyers who are looking at listings online. Some 90% of buyers use the Internet to find their next home. In fact, real estate-related searches have increased 253% on Google over the past 4 years. Virtual staging gives them an idea of how they could use a space before they see it in person.
  3. It saves time. Instead of waiting for furniture and decorating professionals to arrive and do their work, you can have your photos edited and ready to post in under 24 hours.
  4. You can make changes more easily if you don’t like something. Virtual staging is very flexible. You can change the furniture around to fit your needs, and you can also switch out items if you don't like what you see right away. Virtual staging offers a degree of experimentation that physical staging does not, which is why it's so popular with many real estate agents today.
  5. Virtual staging showcases your home to potential buyers in a way that would otherwise not be possible, especially if you're selling a home that's currently empty. The prospective buyer can see the staged photos which will draw them in, while at the same time, they can fully experience the vacant property. 
  6. It’s more convenient for the homeowner. If you have the option for virtual staging, you don’t have to deal with setting up furniture or tidying your own home before pictures are taken. It is also easier to work around the schedule of a virtual stager than a professional designer, who is likely busy helping other clients as well.

Although virtual staging has many positive aspects to it, there are some potential drawbacks. Here are the most common cons:

  1. Buyers may view virtual staging as dishonest if the home hasn't been staged at all when they visit it in person. When using virtual staging services, the most important thing is disclosing this information to prospective home-buyers. Managing your clients’ expectations is essential so they are not disappointed when they see the property in person. That's why some agents choose to clearly mark their photos as digitally staged rather than trying to pass them off as real.
  2. The virtual staging company you choose might not provide you with the best finished product. The images you get could be examples of bad staging that will detract from your property rather than help it sell faster. There are many excellent virtual stagers out there, but there are also some bad ones who use the same furniture and accessories repeatedly in all their projects, so be sure you see examples of their work before hiring them. To avoid this, take a look at our blog post on finding the best virtual staging company on the market. 

Why Use Virtual Staging over Traditional Staging?

Virtual staging of an exterior space
Exterior spaces have become increasingly important to home-buyers due to the pandemic

The goal of traditional staging is to allow potential buyers to envision their lives in a home by showing them how the space can be used. It helps them visualize what the property could look like if they were to live there.

On the other hand, virtual staging can help you do this even when your property is empty. With virtual staging, you can show a potential buyer multiple different layouts for a room, all with just one click! In addition, it takes much less time than traditional staging — which means you don’t have to wait around for furniture to be delivered or picked up.

The most significant difference between the two is the cost. Traditional staging costs include an initial consultation and then cost per month per room which can add up after some time. On top of that, most home stagers require you to stage a minimum of three months per contract, even if the property is sold the very same day it’s listed. 

On the other hand, virtual staging doesn’t have any upkeep costs. You pay a fixed amount per image that you want to be staged. The cost of virtual staging can be up to 96% lower than that of traditional staging, which can help you maximize your returns.

The purpose of home staging and virtual staging is the same — to highlight your home's best features and make it more attractive to buyers. And if you're selling a vacant house, virtual staging can be a very cost-effective way of bringing the property to life for potential buyers.

It also helps home sellers gain marketing exposure for their property without having an open house, which often reduces the number of showings and can even deter qualified buyers from making an official offer.

Traditional staging can be great if you have the budget and time but if you are short on either, virtual staging is your answer.

Is Virtual Staging the Right Choice for Me?

Virtual staging is a great option for any vacant property that needs something to make it stand out in the competitive market. It’s also an excellent choice for any seller who would like to showcase their home in its best light or any agent looking to level up their marketing game. 

It is also great for builders and developers looking to stage a new build, and agents who have a new listing and don’t have time/budget to stage. On top of that, virtual staging can also be used by agents with a listing that needs updating or redesigning, or realtors looking for a budget-friendly way to enhance a property's online listing.

Virtual staging is a great tool for empty homes, but it's also an easy way to update photos of occupied homes. If your client doesn't want to do anything to their home before listing, you can simply swap out the furniture in the photos for something more neutral.

Virtual staging of a bedroom in a Restauration Hardware style of interior design
The furniture in this bedroom was selected to go well with the curtains that were originally in the space

When a house sits on the market for a long time, it can become stigmatized, making buyers reluctant to purchase. This means you need to look for ways to freshen up your marketing and make it feel new again. Virtual staging is a quick and inexpensive way to do this without having to convince your clients to change anything about their homes.

Virtual staging is an excellent way to make your listings stand out when they're already occupied by people or pets. The technology has come far enough that virtual staging no longer looks fake or cheesy, which means there's no downside in using it.

Additionally, virtual staging can help sell a home that needs updating. For example, if a room has ugly wallpaper or bad carpeting, it can be virtually staged with furniture to distract from the outdated décor. The same applies to outdated kitchens and bathrooms — you can virtually stage these rooms to show how beautiful they could look with new countertops and fixtures.

Of course, the important thing to do when doing these kinds of changes is to make sure that the potential clients are aware of them. The best way to do this is to show original and virtually staged images side by side. This can be especially appealing for clients who want to do some reno work and are looking for a fixer-upper.

Virtual staging is a great choice for many people, so don't worry if you can't afford real-world staging. Virtual staging is a powerful tool and, if used correctly, can easily mimic traditional staging and bring you even more benefits than traditional methods. But, ultimately, it is up to you to decide which form of staging best suits your needs.

If you're looking for more information on topics like this one, check out our blog and read up today!

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